Oregon is one of the 17 states that joined a lawsuit Monday to stop a new federal rule threatening to bar hundreds of thousands of international students from studying in the United States.

Based on the most recent data, more than 13,000 of those students are in Oregon, most of them likely on student visas.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said Oregon is joining the lawsuit by 16 other states and the District of Columbia in U.S. District Court in Boston. Massachusetts is the lead state in seeking an injunction against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement , which now say that international students cannot take their classes exclusively online and remain in the United States.

Rosenblum said the rule reverses the guidance issued by ICE on March 13.

“This administration has repeatedly looked for ways to punish immigrants, and this is just another cruel example,” she said. “Except this time, they are targeting students who are in Oregon to receive an education and give back to our communities.

“They are also playing with the health of students during this pandemic, and circumventing public health guidance which encourages social distancing and distance learning when possible. Colleges and universities are united with us in saying this rule will have dramatic impacts upon our state.”

A statement was attached from Kyle Thomas, director of legislative affairs for the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission. He said that based on estimates of tuition, books and living expenses for the students, Oregon could stand to lose almost $145 million for the 2020-21 academic year scheduled to start soon.

“ICE’s newly announced proposed temporary rule, not yet finalized or registered in the Federal Register, proposed to affect the Fall 2020 education term, just six to eleven weeks away for most private and public higher education institutions,” Thomas said.

The lawsuit also alleges that the proposed rule:

  • Fails to consider the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.
  • Fails to consider the tremendous costs and administrative burden it would impose on schools to readjust plans and certify students.
  • Fails to consider that, for many international students, remote learning in their home countries is not possible.
  • Imposes significant financial harm to schools, as international students pay hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition, housing, dining, and other fees.
  • Imposes harm to schools’ academic, extracurricular, and cultural communities, as international students contribute invaluable perspectives and diverse skill sets.
  • Forces colleges and universities to offer in-person classes amid a pandemic or lose significant numbers of international students who will have to leave the country, transfer, or disenroll from the school.

A U.S. district judge in Boston has set a hearing for Tuesday, July 14, on a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology against the rule.

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